Sleep Tips

Why Deeper Sleep May Soon Be Music to Your Ears

I generally find  TED talks to be a good way to stay current on a wide array of subjects, so when I recently saw a  new talk on sleep and brain science, it naturally piqued my interest. The fact that this particular talk was given by an entrepreneurial  sleep scientist whose self-proclaimed goal in life is to “try to make seven and a half hours feel like eight" only served to further garner my attention.

Promising to reveal deep insights into sleep's potential benefits with respect to everything from health to memory to our ability to learn, I watched this enticingly titled talk,  The brain benefits of deep sleep – and how to get more of it, and it did not fail to deliver. In what was a short talk even by TED standards, speaker Dan Gartenberg set the stage by touching on a host of important aspects of sleep before presenting his intriguing research about the innovative new sleep technology.

While you're certainly welcome to take 6 ½ minutes and watch the talk for yourself, I wanted to review and summarize some of the eye-opening sleep facts, and then…spoiler alert!…share with you Gartenberg's innovative new sleep technology that may someday, hopefully in the not-so-distant future, prove to be music to our ears!

  • Lack of sleep. With the average American today getting an entire hour less of sleep per night than our grandparents and great-grandparents did in the 1940's (along with all sorts of supporting findings), the simple fact of the matter is that we aren't getting enough sleep.
  • Sleep effects health. Poor sleep is linked to diseases such as Alzheimer's, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and stroke, reinforcing the all-too-often overlooked fact that insufficient sleep is a serious public health problem.
  • Sleep deprivation makes it hard to relate. Beyond the physical effects, a lack of sleep serves as a drain on our capacity for empathy and makes it harder to relate to others and just generally be a “good person." No surprise, it also increases the likelihood that we act rashly and make poor decisions.
  • Certain brain waves may be “biological markers of youth." Of the 3 main stages of sleep (light, deep and REM or rapid eye movement), deep sleep is the stage considered to be the most regenerative. It is during deep sleep that the brain has time to do many important things, including consolidating new learning and memories. While the other two stages of sleep demonstrate similar brain waves to those that occur when we're awake, distinguishing brain activity in the form of what are called delta waves occur only during deep sleep. Given that both deep sleep and its accompanying delta waves decrease with age, this makes them biological markers of youth.

Now for those of you who got to this last point and found yourself starting to wonder why such detailed information should be of interest to you, stick with me, as it's the recognized benefits of deep sleep (and its associated delta waves) where Gartenberg's bedtime story gets particularly interesting. You see his current line of sleep-inducing work, supported by funding from the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health, involves a new technology that plays a particular sound during sleep, and at the same frequency as naturally occurring deep sleep brain waves. Upon waking, sleep study subjects have no recollection of having heard these sounds, yet measurement of their brain waves during sleep reveals a notable increase in delta waves. Even more importantly, these carefully crafted sounds stimulate deeper sleep and improved memory.

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